2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Mike Corbett’s opportunities at Air Force led to Alabama-Huntsville coach position

Published: July 8, 2013, 11:09 am, by Joe Paisley

Corbett MUGAir Force coach Frank Serratore gave Mike Corbett the opportunity to embrace an increasingly bigger role. It paid off with the longtime assistant taking over the Alabama-Huntsville program.

“That was invaluable,” Corbett said after word of his hire was announced. “Not many coaches are willing to do that.”

The Chargers, a former independent, begin play in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association this October. Corbett will have a press conference in Huntsville sometime next week. Contract terms were not disclosed.

Corbett served as an informal co-coach of the Falcons program the past 5-6 years, often taking over for period of time when players may have tuned Serratore out. Corbett was a finalist for the Alaska-Anchorage position, which was filled last month.

“We were on the same page and had the same message but the players needed it from a different voice,” Serratore said. “When Anchorage and Huntsville called me I told them I had given him the keys to the car and he delivered. Better than that, he excelled.”

Corbett spent the past 10 years as an assistant at Air Force, including serving as associate head coach this past season. The track record of the successful Atlantic Hockey Association program and his large role within it convinced UAH officials he was ready.

“Mike Corbett has spent the last decade recruiting elite young men to the United States Air Force Academy and winning championships,” UAH athletic director E. J. Brophy said. “We are very confident that he is the man to lead Charger hockey into the prestigious WCHA and back to winning on a consistent basis here at UAH.”

Corbett takes over a program eliminated in Oct. 2011 and revived a couple months later after a new school president was hired, alumni raised $1.5 million and Huntsville renovated the city-owned arena.

The program reached the NCAA Tournament in 2007 and 2010 as a member of now-defunct College Hockey America. Without a league, the Chargers went a combined 11-103-5 since that last berth and struggled to schedule home games, which hurt ticket revenue and recruiting.

The job at the southern-most Division I program came open after coach Kurt Kleinendorst left after one 3-21-1 season.

300px-UAH_ChargersCorbett praised Chargers assistant Gavin Morgan, a former Denver teammate, for his recruiting efforts and keeping current players on task.

“A lot of that stuff is in place,” Corbett said. “Right now, it is about building an identity and letting people know Huntsville is here to stay. It’s a very exciting time. They worked hard to join the WCHA. They showed great commitment to fight through their struggles. They have good stability in their athletic department. The alumni are supportive and excited to have someone looking to stay there for a while.”

Corbett and his wife Stacey have a son Jordan, 23, and daughter Mayson, 17, a recent Pine Creek High School graduate.

All 59 Division I head jobs are now filled. Serratore is confident the Falcons will find a quality replacement.

“My phone is already ringing off the hook,” he said. “10 years ago when someone like you asked me how I would replace (Robert Morris coach) Derek Schooley, I got Mike Corbett.”

Serratore is proud to have three former assistants; Corbett, Schooley and St. Cloud State’s Bob Motzko, the top assistant for Serratore at Denver, leave and build successful programs.

“I worked hard for Bob, Derek and Mike but first off they worked very hard for me,” Serratore said. “It’s a good day for our program. Our Air Force family just got bigger.”

During Corbett’s time with the Falcons, the team won five AHA tournament championships to garner NCAA berths. The 2009 and 2012 regular-season champs rank in the top 10 in winning percentage with seven consecutive winning seasons.

The former Denver defenseman and two-time alternate captain led the Air Force blue-line corps, and the team established records for fewest goals allowed per game from 2006-09. He developed three AHA Defensemen of the Year.

The team also had 17 all-conference selections, three All-Americans, two league Player of the Year winners and a Hobey Baker Hat Trick finalist.

The WCHA all-academic team defenseman at Denver (1992-97), where he played for Serratore, was a finalist for the 1997 NCAA Hockey Humanitarian Award. He graduated from Denver with a masters’ degree in 1998. Corbett spent 1997-2001 as a head coach in the junior hockey ranks before becoming director of the Colorado Springs Amateur Hockey Association in 2002. He joined Air Force in 2003.